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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 13:13 GMT
Blair's 'disappointment' in Short
Ex-international development secretary Clare Short
The letter to Ms Short was 'confidential', says Downing Street
Tony Blair is "disappointed" at Clare Short's decision to publicise details of a letter to her from the head of the civil service, Downing Street says.

No 10 said the letter to the former international development secretary from Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull was meant to be confidential.

But Downing Street would not speculate on suggestions that Ms Short might be stripped of her Privy Council status.

She says she was warned not to give interviews about intelligence matters.

PM approved letter

Ms Short released details of a letter from Sir Andrew sent after she claimed British spies had been involved in bugging UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Downing Street said Mr Blair was disappointed that she had decided to release text from the "confidential" warning letter in which she was told she faced "further action" if she continued to give interviews.

It's a fact of life that she chose to publicise the letter and that was her decision
PM's spokesman

Mr Blair's official spokesman said he had nothing further to add to the letter initiated by Sir Andrew other than "the prime minister obviously was aware of it and approved of its sending".

The spokesman said Number 10 would not "allow the pace of events to be set by other people".

More important issues

Asked if the matter would now be left there, the spokesman replied: "If and when we do have a view on that, no doubt we will tell you about it.

"It's a fact of life that she chose to publicise the letter and that was her decision."

In his letter, Sir Andrew said he was "extremely disappointed" that Ms Short saw fit to make claims which damaged the country's interests and he reserved the right of the Crown to take "any further action as necessary".

So much smearing is going on I just want to give my account of events
Clare Short, MP

But Ms Short defended her right to speak out saying: "So much smearing is going on I just want to give my account of events."

Downing Street has said it was the duty of the cabinet secretary to remind ministers and ex-ministers of the obligations they accepted when taking up office.

Ms Short also accused Sir Andrew of allowing Britain to "rush to war" without the proper preparations.

"He allowed us to rush to war in Iraq without defence and overseas policy meeting, looking at all the military options and the diplomatic options and political options.

"(He) allowed the Joint Intelligence Committee to meet with Alastair Campbell chairing it. He has allowed our decision making system to crumble."

'Unease'

Ms Short also questioned the impartiality of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, who advised Tony Blair about the legality of going to war in Iraq.

Her latest attack comes as Mr Blair faces pressure to publish the attorney general's advice.

Former Tory Prime Minister John Major said there was no excuse for not giving full details of Lord Goldsmith's advice.

The government has rejected demands to publish the advice and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw referred reporters to a statement the attorney general had made to the House of Lords in March 2003.

Ms Short said there had been unease across Whitehall over the legality of the war without a second UN resolution.

Then "right at the last minute", Lord Goldsmith went to the cabinet with a brief statement saying there was legal authority.

"It is hard not to think he (Lord Goldsmith) may have been leant on," she said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Shaun Ley
"One possibility is asking the Queen to throw Short out of the Privy Council"




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